Daphni: JIAOLONG

    Daphni, a side project of psych-pop auteur Dan Snaith, was formed with the purpose of applying the delicate pan-cultural sonic approach of Snaith’s main band, Caribou, to dance music’s broad palate. The existence of the Daphni project should come as no surprise to those who heard Caribou’s most recent album, Swim, which dabbled in the kind of dreamy house that paved the way for JIAOLONG’s more formal dance compositions.

    The album is, for the most part, very successful: JIAOLONG’s nine tracks (which are apparently constructed mostly with a modular synthesizer designed by Snaith himself), contain exactly the kind of well-crafted, stylistically adventurous tunes one would expect from a musician of Snaith’s standing. Highlight “Ne Noya,” for example, combines an infectious sample of Togolese funk band Cos-Ber-Zam with a rigid techno pulse and shuffling hand percussion. Similarly, “Ye Ye” lays an insistent vocal sample (again, presumably from one of the mid-’70s African pop records that provide inspiration for much of the album) over rippling synth arpeggios.

    The most surprising aspect of JIAOLONG is the sense of restraint shown throughout. While Snaith’s work with Caribou tends toward maximalism, the songs on JIAOLONG are relentlessly lean in their composition. They often, as on tracks like “Light” and “Ahora,” consist of only two layers, a world-leaning melodic element and the kind of minimal rhythmic groove that betrays Snaith’s extensive knowledge of house and techno. This technique, while admirable, ultimately leads to the album’s primary flaw: Some of these tracks, while fascinating, don’t evolve enough over their runtime to maintain the listener’s interest. That fact notwithstanding, JIAOLONG’s highs, such as the gleeful “Yes I Know” are well worth the listen and prove that Snaith’s career in dance music is very promising indeed. (7/10)

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